"We were not able to track call history on which person of the team was talking to what contact about what," said Hummert, former president of Hummert Construction, of Lantana, Fla. "The left hand didnt know what the right hand was doing."
The construction business involves a constant courtship of communications. Not so long ago, Hummert didnt know what CRM (customer relationship management) was. He said he stumbled upon it, and CBI, on the way to a faxing solution.
When Hummert approached Optus Software about the faxing solution, Optus officials recommended he talk to CBI, one of their resellers. CBI, based in Hollywood, Fla., offers consulting and integration services for small and midsize businesses, according to Martin, company vice president.
It was at CBI that Hummert said he was introduced to the concept of CRM, and he said it dovetailed perfectly with his companys business philosophy: "We build relationships, not just buildings."
Maintaining that relationship requires constant communications with the many points of contact in the construction industry: project managers, superintendents, clients, leads, referrals, subcontractors, suppliers and engineers, to name a few, Hummert said. Such contact requires an endless flow of requests and approvals, he said.
With CBIs installation of FrontRange Solutions GoldMine, along with a customized tool CBI created called GoldBuilder, Hummert said he was able to automate and enforce the flow of dozens of construction processes. At any moment, Hummert could call up GoldMine to see the current stage of each process—whether it was pending, active or completed—all with an associated document-history trail, Martin said.
"We were able to track what was going on [with] these projects so we didnt lose details, because everything always translates into customer service," Hummert said.
"[But] youre not going to get [a project] unless you bid it," Hummert said. "Your propensity to get more is based on how many of those bids you can throw against the wall."
With the new GoldMine/GoldBuilder solution, Hummert said he could submit many more RFPs (requests for proposal).
Within a new GoldMine project, Hummert attached documents and then dropped contacts into the project. With this method, requests for additional information, such as materials costs or a subcontractors bid, are automatically sent to those contacts via their preferred method of communication—for example, e-mail or fax, said Hummert.
Before using GoldMine, to initiate an RFP, Hummert said he would have to pick up the phone and search through the companys phone list, which limited the number of bids he could take on. With the new GoldBuilder system, Martin said CBI was able to cut down the time needed to execute an RFP—from seven to 14 days (the industry average) to only one to three days.
Using GoldMine as the backbone, CBI fleshed out GoldBuilder with additional applications, including automated faxing from Wizard Systems OmniRush and customized reports from Business Objects Crystal Reports. CBI also incorporated Sage Softwares Timberline Office construction accounting application and Timberline Office Estimating tool, Hummert said.
Even though business was going well, personal decisions subsequently led Hummert to take a new business path. He recently joined the family business, Hummert International, a horticultural distributor based in St. Louis.
Hummert said he will have to start the process all over again because Hummert International has no technology infrastructure. Thankfully, however, he said hes looking forward to building on what he learned from CBI and his construction business.
David Spark is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.